Business is often compared to running a marathon, but it’s not a perfect metaphor. Marathoners maintain a relatively constant pace and gait, and business is full of surprises.
In my experience, business is more like a marathon interspersed with unexpected sprints and hurdles of various heights. It has twists, high jumps, sharp turns, and cramps.
In the race of business, we can’t predict what will happen next. Still, with proper preparation, you can maximize your luck to go the distance.
Bring Home the Gold
If you want to take home that trophy, it’s time to start training. Here are seven coach-inspired suggestions:
1. Focus on your personal best.
Just as no Olympian competes in every event, you simply won’t be good at everything in business. Hundreds of little things — many of them outside of your expertise — will demand your attention. Do what you do best, and delegate the rest.
For example, as a runner, I’m obsessed with speed. I’ve made improving Dashed’s delivery times my personal mission, which I’ve done by linking staff bonuses and company incentives to service times. I’m not, however, a legal expert, so I pass that baton off to others.
2. Nourish brain and body.
Both in business and in running, healthy eating and daily exercise are essential. Running helps me combat stress, enhance creativity, and motivate myself to tackle tomorrow’s challenges.
I know it sounds simple, but by improving your diet and exercise habits, you improve your performance at work. Get active, eat breakfast, and try my 90-second morning trick to boost your circulation, elevate your mood, and find your focus.
3. Remember your training.
Even the most elite runners spend months training for a marathon. Training builds endurance and muscle mass, of course, but more importantly, it builds confidence. So much of a marathon, like a business, is your mental framework — the perspective you apply to both wins and failures. Do you push through and become stronger when an obstacle arises, drawing grit from within, or do you give up or back out of the race? This answer, in both business and the marathon, will determine your outcome.
Training brings confidence. So whether you’re starting a business or you’ve been at it for years, regularly remind yourself of the setbacks you’ve overcome. Think about your education, mentors, talents, and prior work. Use those experiences to set your pace. Even small factors like the clothes you wear and the music you listen to can help you start every day with confidence. Confidence wins the race.
4. Expect surprises, and stay calm.
I’ve learned the hard way that no matter how well I’ve trained, a long race almost always throws some curveballs. The weather might not cooperate, I might get a headache, or a cramp might develop. Maybe someone will trip you by accident. What’s the best thing to do? Get up, keep going, and be even stronger. Laugh it off that the universe can be absurd but has nothing out for you. Empower yourself to not let anything stop you from achieving your goals — you determine whether you achieve your goals. Don’t let anyone or anything get in your way. To keep anything from throwing me off my game, I set three goals for every race: a reach goal, a realistic goal, and a backup goal.
Business, unfortunately, can be even more unpredictable. Sometimes, things simply won’t go your way. If you’ve planned ahead, however, you’ll be OK. From finances to recruitment to partnerships, hope for the best, expect the norm, and plan for the worst.
5. Visualize your success.
Running is all about your expectations. If you think you’re slow, you’re going to be slow. If you think you’re a speed demon, you will be. Either way, you’re right. And if you see yourself setting a new personal best? You’re much more likely to do it.
Business works the same way. When you’re weary and need to dig deep, visualizing success can provide you the boost you need. Before that investor meeting, picture yourself nailing the pitch. If you’re focusing on revenue, see yourself making sales. No matter your goal, picture a perfect finish and then work to make it happen.
6. Love the race.
If you don’t love running, you won’t stick with it. It’s hard, and unless you truly want to do it, you’re eventually going to quit. Your professional life works the same way. Once you’ve been at it for a while, it’s easy to lose interest. Passion fuels success.
Whatever your business, figure out what you love about it. I’m passionate about running, for example, so I built my company’s culture by awarding gold, silver, and bronze medals to top delivery drivers. Figure out what lights your fire, and nurture that flame.
7. Track your time.
As soon as I cross the finish line, I use running apps (a mix of Garmin and Strava) to check my time. I consider what I did well (which miles I excelled) and where I stumbled (at which points of the race was I slowest), and I use it to improve for future races.
Once you’ve hit a company milestone, look back. How did you accomplish it? What didn’t you do well? Be honest with yourself. Leverage routines to make yourself more efficient.
Above all, be grateful for your team, your body, and your talents. You won’t win every race — even Bill Gates failed before becoming the most financially successful person on Earth — but with the right training and attitude, you’ll cross that finish line faster and more often than ever before.